Friday, 9 February 2018

Winter cruising joys and the misery caused by flooding bilges


Photo of Phil at the helm of Ravensdale in the bright winter sunshine

Phil at the helm of Ravensdale in the bright winter sunshine

The past week has been both exhilarating and nerve-wracking in equal measure.

We took our 43ft cruiser Ravensdale out to sea for her first cruise of the year in beautiful cold, sunny weather on Sunday.

There was very little wind again on Monday so we decided to go out for a fishing trip, which proved successful for the first time ever J

On both days, we enjoyed spectacular views of the snow-covered mountains inland from Maryport in Cumbria, UK, and, on the way back to the marina on Monday evening, we were treated to a dramatic sunset.

At that stage, I couldn’t have been happier with our new, or rather newish, liveaboard lifestyle.

I was convinced that boat life was so much better than real life J

But that quickly changed on Tuesday evening when we discovered our bilges were filling up with water.


Rising water levels in the bilges

Photo of Phil removing the broken bilge pump

Phil removes the broken bilge pump

By the time we discovered the problem, the water had covered the metal grid between Ravensdale’s two 300hp Volvo Penta engines. The bow bilges were also pretty full.

The engine room bilge pump cleared the water in there, but the bow bilge pump refused to work and, when Phil removed it, he found that part of the impeller had melted.
Just hours after pumping out the engine room, it was filling up again and Phil discovered that the water was coming in around the port prop shaft.

It wasn’t just dripping. There was a steady flow of water coming in and he was reluctant to touch it while we were afloat in case he made it worse.

So we spent the night waking every couple of hours to pump out the bilges until we could ask someone with more knowledge than us to take a look at it the following day.

Photo of the broken bilge pump showing the melted impeller

The broken bilge pump showing the melted impeller


Meanwhile, we ordered a new, fully automatic bilge pump that can pump 2,000 gallons per hour.

We’d been meaning to buy an automatic bilge pump for some time and the water ingress, together with the broken pump, forced our hand.

The plan is to install the new, more powerful automatic pump in the engine room and move the functioning pump from the engine room to the bow. We are also going to see if we can get a replacement impeller for the broken pump to provide back up.

First thing on Wednesday morning, we started trying to track down Norman, the local man who’d sorted our overheating engine problem, but he doesn’t use a telephone.

He’d previously told us to catch him at the marina, where he has a small fishing boat, around the harbour, where he can frequently be found working on his son’s and grandson’s commercial fishing boats or to call at his home.

We tried all three locations without success, then I realised that we could probably reach him through his grandson, who’s a Facebook friend. I sent Tom a quick message saying we were in urgent need of Norman’s assistance and in no time at all I had a message back saying “He’s on his way”.

While waiting, we continued to pump out the bilges.

And, to say we were relieved when we saw Norman and his black Labrador walking along the pontoon towards Ravensdale would be the understatement of the century.

I quickly put the coffeemaker on as I now know coffee (or tea) to be the first priority in all boat-related situations J

Norman took one look at the water that was coming in and declared that the stern gland was leaking. He tightened the two nuts on the plate and the flow stopped.

He said it would be worth replacing the stern gland packing next time we have our Neptunus 133 lifted out, adding that there was no rush to do it.

Photo of the port prop shaft stern gland that caused our sleepless night

The port prop shaft stern gland that caused our sleepless night

We both slept a lot better that night, partly because there was no need to keep getting up to pump out the bilges and partly because we didn’t have to worry about the boat filling up with water.

The new automatic bilge pump arrived yesterday (Thursday) and will be fitted asap.


Winter cruising

Photo of Ravensdale on the Solway Firth

A local woman took this photo of Ravensdale on Sunday and kindly allowed me to use it here

Our trips out into the Solway Firth on Sunday and Monday were a much happier experience.

Photo of Ravensdale cruising into the winter sun

Ravensdale cruising into the winter sun


The first was to test the starboard engine to make sure it was working properly after Norman cleaned out the heat exchanger and intercooler for us a couple of weeks ago.

We didn’t attempt high speeds, but took Ravensdale up to 13-14 knots with no problems. The engine temperature stayed well below 200F. Before the work was carried out, the temperature started to shoot up as soon as we went over 12 knots.

The port engine was running a little hotter, so we plan to get the heat exchanger and intercooler off that one for cleaning one day soon.

The weather was amazing. The sea was flat calm and the sun was so bright that we needed our sunglasses when heading into it.

Photo of me on Ravensdale's aft deck on the Solway Firth

Me on Ravensdale's aft deck on the Solway Firth

We didn’t drop the anchor, but put the engines in neutral and allowed the boat to drift while we had a cup of tea on the foredeck and enjoyed the views. That said, we didn’t drift much at all as there was very little wind.

Unsurprisingly for such a beautiful day, we were not alone on the Solway Firth.

Ten other berth holders from Maryport Marina also took their boats out for a sail or cruise, which is the largest number we’ve seen out at one time since we moved onto our boat here 15 months ago.

We decided to go out again on Monday to test our anchor as we’d never dropped it outside the marina and thought it best to check everything was working properly while close to home.

Phil also fancied doing a spot of fishing so we headed north up the coast a short way.

Photo of Sunrise fishing on Monday

Sunrise fishing on Monday


We stopped fairly close to a local fishing boat called Sunrise and, as we knew the owner, tried to make contact. We didn’t know which VHF channel he’d be using so I suggested calling him on his mobile phone.

And, while I was looking for his phone number, he called us. Great minds think alike! J

We dropped the anchor and Phil set up his fishing rods while I got lunch and a cup of tea, which we had on the foredeck in the sun.  

Photo of Phil dropping the anchor

Phil dropping the anchor


Photo of Phil fishing in the Solway Firth

Phil fishing in the Solway Firth


Phil was just about to give up fishing when we decided to give it another 15 minutes and, shortly after making this decision, he got a bite and reeled in a decent sized cod.


Sadly, we will never know what it weighed as Phil gutted it before I had a chance to get it on the scales, but it provided two reasonable sized fillets.

Photo of Phil with the first cod he has caught from Ravensdale

Phil with the first cod he has caught from Ravensdale


I spent much of the time we were at anchor taking photographs and was moaning that I couldn't get the view of the snow-covered hills that I wanted so Phil suggested I try taking them from the flybridge, which helped a lot.

It was the first time I'd been up on the flybridge at sea and I was amazed that just being a few feet higher made a big difference to what I could see.




Photo of a row of bare trees and the white hills behind them

A row of bare trees stand out against the white hills behind them




Photo of me on Ravensdale's flybridge

Me on Ravensdale's flybridge


We retrieved the anchor without any problems and headed back to the marina as the sun went down.

Photo of Phil weighing anchor at the end of the fishing trip

Phil weighing anchor at the end of the fishing trip

I was delighted with the dramatic clouds, with the sunset breaking through them that made for some good photo opportunities on the way back to the marina.

Photo of the view as we returned to Maryport from our fishing trip

The view as we returned to Maryport from our fishing trip


Photo of the Isle of Man just visible in the distance

The Isle of Man was just visible in the distance


Photo of the sun breaking through heavy clouds over Maryport pier

The sun breaking through heavy clouds over Maryport pier


Photo of a wider view of the pier including the lighthouse

A wider view of the pier including the old lighthouse on the left of the image


Photo of the sunset as we entered Maryport on Monday evening

The sunset as we entered Maryport on Monday evening

Photo of Ravensdale about to enter the gate to Maryport Marina

Ravensdale about to enter the gate to Maryport Marina

Winter weather

We’ve had a mixed bag of weather this week - ice, snow, rain, drizzle and sunshine, but for the first time in a very long time we’ve had very little wind.

Last Friday was a lovely sunny day in Maryport and there was a very high tide so I just had to get out and take some photos.
Photo of Maryport Marina with a 9.2m high tide

Maryport Marina with a 9.2m high tide



Photo of Maryport Harbour at a very high tide

Maryport Harbour at a very high tide


Photo of colourful fishing boats in Maryport Harbour

Colourful fishing boats in Maryport Harbour


Photo of Maryport from the bridge over the River Ellen

Maryport from the bridge over the River Ellen


We had a 9.2m tide, which brought the water level in the marina and nearby harbour up almost to the top of the dock walls, totally changing the look of the town.
Most of Saturday was wet and miserable, but it cleared up later in the day.

On Sunday, the sun came out again.
We got a bit of a sunset in the evening and clear skies led to low temperatures overnight.

Photo of sunset at Maryport Marina

Sunset at Maryport Marina

We woke up on Monday to find ice on the surface of the water around the boat and on Tuesday morning we discovered it had snowed overnight, but it quickly cleared when the snow turned to rain.

Wednesday morning was another icy morning after a cold night during which we were told it went down to -4C in Maryport.

Photo of ice on the surface of the water at Maryport Marina

Ice on the surface of the water at Maryport Marina

And yesterday (Thursday) was mainly overcast and drizzly, with sunny intervals.


Wildlife in the marina

We’re always interested in any wildlife that visits the marina and this week we were told two otters had been seen on the ramp between the marina facilities and the pontoons.

We’ve seen otter scat on the ramp, but we haven’t seen the carnivorous mammals yet. Hopefully we’ll get to see them soon.

Sadly, we found a dead kingfisher floating in the marina this week. We’ve often seen one flying around, or at least we assumed it was the same one, but we've seen a kingfisher again since so it seems there was more than one.
Photo of a kingfisher in Maryport Marina in December of last year

A kingfisher in Maryport Marina in December of last year



We’ve started dropping our prawn pot off the boat while in the marina again lately and have caught a few small fish and a lot of shore crabs, but this week we also caught a spider crab.

Photo of the spider crab we caught in our prawn pot

The spider crab we caught in our prawn pot


Other boat jobs

The dark blue canvas we ordered to repair the cover on the flybridge arrived.

I then realised that I should also have ordered the proper thread for the job.

The order was placed and it has now arrived so I will have to get my sewing machine out to put a patch on the cover on the next available dry day.

We’re planning to use the remaining fabric to make a cover for the windlass.

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